It’s not just students preparing to file back into classrooms in Queensland on Monday, but also some select pooches — specifically therapy dogs, and services are seeing the demand for them grow significantly.
- Demand for therapy dogs in schools has increased during the pandemic
- Student engagement has been boosted by involving pets in online learning, leading to more interest in therapy dogs
- A dog trainer says schools should consider breeds and temperaments
Maverick, an almost two-year-old Tamaruke, is one of those dogs.
Lyn Harland, Carinity Education Rockhampton principal, said Maverick was an instant hit after being gifted to the school and had a wonderful effect on students.
“He’ll sit with the kids while they’re reading. If I have a child that’s in my office … who’s upset, he will come and sit with that child,” Ms Harland said.
“He lets them know that he’s there.
“I would highly recommend that every single school has a therapy dog.
“They’re just beautiful; it gives something to the kids to look forward to.”
Ms Harland said Maverick was more of a “community” therapy dog that also spent time out and about for charities and government events.
Ms Harland said Maverick was so popular at the special assistance school that he would be returning three days a week, after making sporadic visits last year.
She said she was constantly fielding questions from other schools that wanted their own therapy dog.
Amy Hodgkinson, director of national consulting business Therapy Dogs in Education, said the demand for therapy dogs in schools had recently increased, with COVID causing tumultuous education schedules and an increase in online learning.
“They’ve [the teachers] been seeing these reactions and increased engagement even just online via video link,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
Things to consider
Carinity Education youth worker and part-time dog trainer Laura Tingle, who works with Maverick on campus, said there was a difference between assistance dogs and therapy dogs.
“An assistance or service dog works one-on-one with the person that they need to help,” she said.
“Therapy dogs [are] here for the therapy of everyone who attends.
“When we think in terms of therapy, we don’t really think in terms of just one person but for everyone.”
Ms Hodgkinson said there were many things to consider when looking at getting a therapy dog for a school, including getting the appropriate breed.
“Ultimately, what we’re looking for are dogs that are really interested in interacting with people and are confident dogs as well and friendly dogs,” she said.
“We are recommending, and industry standards certainly suggest, that we should be navigating temperament assessments and professional training in this space as well.
“So it’s more than just taking a pet to school that might just be a lovely, friendly pet.
“We do need to put a little bit more work into that to ensure it’s a safe and ethical practice.”
back to school
Maverick resides with principal Lyn Harland, and while he enjoys his downtime after a big day in the classroom, he is now preparing to get back to work.
“The last couple of weeks Maverick has been here at school and around the grounds while we haven’t had the students here. That just gets him back in the groove, so to speak.”